Geneva, Switzerland—The Pesticide Action Network* (PAN) calls on international decision-makers gathered at the Conference of Parties of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions to put into place a global governance mechanism for the lifecycle management of pesticides.
In a side event, PAN International will discuss the international management of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), pointing out that the failure of the global governance of pesticides has caused illnesses and deaths among millions of people, especially small farmers and agricultural workers. It has also accelerated the destruction of pollinators and beneficial insects that underpin agricultural productivity, and the contamination of soils and waterways; further threatening biodiversity and the sustainability of food production.
“The BRS Conventions only cover 3.5% of pesticides that are manufactured and sold around the world. There is no overall governance process over pesticides, but rather a disjointed patchwork of some aspects of pesticide management in a variety of conventions and agreements, leaving large gaps in overall management. What we need is a global governance mechanism for pesticides that will phase-out HHPs and replace them with agroecology, end double standards in trade, and place the full responsibility on producers for the impacts of their pesticides,” said Dr. Meriel Watts, PAN Asia Pacific senior scientist.
Dr. Watts added that a viable option is to make the FAO’s International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management legally-binding. The Code, which covers the use, distribution and trade, storage and disposal of pesticides, among others, is a voluntary mechanism that is frequently ignored and wantonly violated, and has failed to stop pesticide poisoning since its enactment in 1985.
“In our most recent study of pesticide use in seven Asian countries**, 70% of respondents suffered from symptoms of pesticide poisoning. There was no evidence of safe use—majority were not even aware of the hazards of the pesticides they used. They did not use protective equipment, used defective sprayers, stored pesticides inside their homes, disposed of containers improperly,” said Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific executive director.
PAN will also emphasise the need to end double standards in trade in pesticides. For instance, Germany continues to export nine pesticides that are in PAN’s HHP List, even if these pesticides have been not approved for use in the European Union, some since as early as 2002. Exports of these toxic pesticides can reach up to 10,000 tons annually, usually ending up in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) with weak regulations.
In a recent study by the Swiss NGO Public Eye***, it was revealed that LMICs account for about 70% of worldwide HHP use, while the EU share of HHP use is only at 5%. Laurent Gaberell of Public Eye will present the report during the event.
“The global community must act as one to end double standards, which is a huge injustice to the world’s poorest—it’s as if they do not enjoy the same right to health and a safe environment as those who live in developed countries. If we disallow such double standards, the market for HHPs will shrink significantly, and many countries will be enjoined to seek safer alternatives,” Dr. Watts said.
Meanwhile, Soseala Tinilau of the Government of Tuvalu will discuss the challenges of managing HHPs in a Small Island Developing State.
PAN regional centers in United Kingdom, Latin America and Asia Pacific are attending the Triple COPs and making interventions to support the listing of HHPs in the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, and to push for agroecological alternatives to pesticides.
*Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a network of over 600 participating nongovernmental organizations, institutions and individuals in over 90 countries working to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.